Punjab’s narco terror | The buyer and ‘seller’: Tales of 2 families, of sons living and dead
Sitting in her palatial house in Jangpur village of Mullanpur Dakha, Satwant Kaur says she became the village sarpanch in 2007 when the Akali government came to power. It is around the same time that the village became notorious for drug addicts and dealers. The village has sprawling homes, most guarded by German Shepherds.
Pictures of Satwant’s two elder sons — Dipy and Harman — are hanging in the sitting room, with dates of their deaths (January 2013 and August 2013). From the police to villagers, many claim the two brothers sold and consumed “chitta” (heroin) under “political patronage” and organised buses for party rallies. Satwant and her youngest son, Jagmohan, too seem prepared for the question.
DRUG TRADE AND PALATIAL HOUSES
“Jo vi gaddi te kothi pa lave, onu pindwale chitta da dealer keh dende ne (anyone who buys a car and builds a house is labelled as a drug dealer by the villagers),” Satwant says. She has remarried the wife of her eldest son while that of the second son is now Jagmohan’s wife. On how did the two brothers die in their thirties, that too within a gap of eight months, Jagmohan says “heart attack”.
“I was living in Canada. I came back to the village after my brothers passed away. The money we have is from Canada and our farms here,” he says. But no one in the village believes. Not even the police. Jagroan senior superintendent of police Surjit Singh too says the two brothers were drug suspects.
The anganwadi centre of the village is proof how openly drugs are consumed. Disposable syringes, strips of Alprax, Tramadole and vitamin tablets can seen be lying openly in heaps of garbage (see picture). Two youths rush in on seeing the HT team take pictures. One of them, 23-year-old BCA student, agrees to talk, saying he does not want others to meet his fate.
“I was a state-level football player. In Class 11, some of my friends took heroin injections and I too wanted to experiment. I went to a private rehab centre at Dhuri and since five months, I have not taken drugs. Chitta has affected my memory and sex drive. It has left me unfit to marry. After the supply of chitta has been squeezed, some are taking high dosage of vitamin tablets. It also gives a high. Some are making a quick buck by selling small packets of unknown powder for Rs 500,” he said.
TWO BROTHERS, SAME STORY
Not far from Jangpur, a 24-year-old married youth, who did diploma in electronics, and his unmarried elder brother, 25, who claims to have participated in the national boxing championship, have been giving each other company at de-addiction and rehab centres. The brothers, who are from Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda, were admitted to the de-addiction centre of the Bathinda civil hospital last week. The elder brother says he started taking drugs at the Bathinda jail after being put behind bars in 2008 in a murder case. “It started with Alprax and Tramadole tablets. The doctor at the jail gave them to inmates who complained of insomnia. After I was out on bail, I started injecting heroin. I felt guilty when I got to know that my younger brother too had started taking drugs,” he says.
“My wife did not know that I take drugs. When she did, we went to a private rehab centre There, they used to ask us to slap each other. Anyone who complained of body aches and headaches due to withdrawal symptoms was beaten up. We had a relapse as drugs are still easily available in areas like Talwandi Sabo on the Punjab-Haryana border. We are undergoing de-addiction treatment again at the government centre for Rs 250 a day,” the younger brother said.
‘DRUG HAVEN’ EVEN COPS FEAR
At Moga district neighbouring Ludhiana, Daulewala village still remains the most notorious in the state for drug peddling. The village’s new-found riches stare you in the face — imposing double-storeyed houses with expensive gates and a palatial gurdwara. Its two former sarpanchs, Bhola and Para, are in jail on charges of drug peddling.
Politicians too believe drugs do not thrive without political patronage. “It’s no coincidence that the biggest political rallies are held in Moga and some of its villages are most notorious for drugs. It’s sarpanches who are tasked to ferry people to political rallies. The buses carry liquor and chitta. So is the case during elections when drugs are used to buy votes. No one can become an MLA in Punjab without being a part of the nexus,” says Parminder Singh Jhunir, a former Congress leader who contested on Trinamool Congress ticket from Sardulgarh in Mansa.
But raids at Daulewala this year have yielded no drugs. On April 16 this year, as part of the anti-drug crackdown, a police raid in the village was led by three DSPs along with a troop of over 300 cops. But the three-hour operation found just illicit liquor. Almost every family of the village has its men in jail on drug peddling charges. Cops fear to carry out raid in the village as three police teams were attacked by villagers thrice — June 1, June 15 and December 30 — last year.
At 8pm on April 27, the Moga Sadar police station is still getting calls on 181, the police helpline to get information on drug peddlers. But just four cops are on duty at the police station that caters to 31 villages. The situation in the 10 other police stations of the district is no different. The number of arrests registered in the thana since March 16 — after the Congress government took over — is five. In a similar crackdown in 2014 ordered by the previous SAD-BJP government after poor show in Lok Sabha polls, 75 arrests were made under the NDPS Act.
‘DRUG PEDDLERS OPERATING FROM DELHI’
Every crackdown brings a shift in base of the drug syndicate. It’s no more Moga but Delhi, says Mataur police station house officer Pushpinder Singh. They have nabbed a Nigerian student, Micheal, with 50 grams of heroin. “He claims to have got it from a supplier at New Delhi. We are trying to nab his friend to know the dealers in Delhi,” he said.
A cop in the Chandigarh crime branch said catching small-time dealers cannot end drug problem in Punjab. “The big suppliers are not entering Punjab. They work as faceless people from other states and are not even known to the dealers here. And catching those beyond Punjab borders becomes a question of jurisdiction,” he said.